The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command joint forces completed the ninth iteration of exercise Valiant Shield on the 17 June. The one-and-a-half-week-long exercise involved personnel from the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Space Force. Valiant Shield was held on Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, and at sea around the Mariana Island Range Complex.
Participating units in the exercise included, the Navy’s USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) Carrier Strike Groups; USS Tripoli (LHA 7); the Army’s 94th Anti-Air Missile Defense Command (AAMDC); the Marine Corps’ I and III Marine Expeditionary Forces (MEF) and the Air Force’s 36th Wing. In total, the exercise included 15 surface ships, more than 200 aircraft, and 13,000 personnel across the services.
Although the various press releases from the services were very vague in describing the scenarios in this year’s Valiant Shield, the Joint Information Bureau for the exercise told OVD that the exercise scenarios involved:
- Maritime interdiction
- defensive counter-air operations
- personnel recovery
- intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance
- anti-submarine warfare
- command and control
On Saipan and Tinian
It was also reported that the Raytheon Multi-Program Testbed (RMT-727), a modified special mission aircraft, took part in the exercise. The aircraft is specially modified to carry fighter radars in its nose and was seen flying in circles around the islands on the 8 June. RMT-727 was likely involved in tracking targets being driven around Saipan and relaying that information to other assets.
The portion of the exercise that took place over the islands of Saipan and Tinian involved airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, And Reconnaissance (ISR) of ballistic missile surrogates. This information was first reported by Marianas Variety, which reported on public information provided by the Commonwealth Bureau of Military Affairs. The press release stated that one of the exercises on Saipan involved three green High Vehicle Targets (HVT) brought by a detachment from the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC). These HVTs resemble ballistic missiles and were likely being used to simulate such targets for airborne sensors.
A Raytheon press release dated to the 14 June, mentions that the company carried out a communications exercise involving the RMT-727 ahead of its participation in Valiant Shield. The press release states “During the exercise, Raytheon Intelligence & Space relayed data securely in seconds between the Raytheon Multi-Program Testbed (RMT-727), an airborne KC-135, a ground station located at Beale Air Force Base, California, and a satellite to address a set of joint warfighting mission requirements in the multi-domain battlespace. This exercise served as risk-reduction preparation ahead of the company’s participation in the Valiant Shield 2022 exercise currently in Guam.”
Navy EA-18Gs from Electronic Attack Squadron VAQ-138, together with Air Force F-35As of the 356th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron and, 354th Fighter Squadron landed at Palau International Airport in support of Valiant Shield 2022.
Meanwhile, a press release from the Office of the President of Palau, stated that a detachment of Marine Corps personnel would conduct a firing exercise with the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) from the Island of Angaur, while Army personnel would conduct a shootdown exercise with the Patriot missile system from Palau International Airport.
Marines from the 11th Marine Regiment of the 1st Marine Division conducted a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System rapid infiltration or HI-RAIN onto the Island of Anguar aboard an Air National Guard C-130. After the infiltration, the Marines carried out firings of the M28A1 reduced range practice rockets in support of the exercise.
The Patriot shootdown exercise involved an Air Force F-35A that took off from Palau International Airport and subsequently passed target track information to the Patriot unit, this information was then used by the unit to shoot down an MQM-178A aerial target. The capability to acquire target information from secondary airborne platforms is something the Army has demonstrated before in a past Valiant Shield, and is a central part of the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS), which will extend the capability to include other types of sensors.
Equipment for the 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment began arriving at Palau International Airport on the 11 June aboard an Air Force C-17, with the rest of the equipment brought via ship on USNS Puerto Rico and USNS Brunswick on the 10th.
According to a Navy press release, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), USS Tripoli (LHA 7), and aircraft belonging to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 and CVW 3 joined together for formation sailing in the Philippine Sea, along with their escort destroyers and cruisers. Aircraft from both carrier air wings supported the exercise in and around CNMI and Guam, however, the climax of the events at sea involved a sinking exercise (SINKEX) carried out against the decommissioned frigate USS Vandegrift (FFG 48). The frigate was sunk by a multi-axis strike which was initiated by the firing of a Standard Missile 6 (SM-6) from USS Benfold (DDG-65).
Much like Valiant Shield 2020 which was held in and around Hawaii, Valiant Shield 2022 also took place entirely along an island chain. This aspect of the exercise is very important as it allows the service to trial strategies such as the Air Force’s Agile Combat Employment (ACE), the Army’s Multi-Domain Task Force (MDTF), and the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO). These strategies have been developed by their respective services to operate in the contested environments of the Pacific.